A concept vessel design of a 3R (Replenishment, Research and Rescue) vessel has been unveiled by Ulstein at Seatrade Miami.
The 149m-long vessel, the Ulstein Thor, is set to feature a Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) to generate clean and safe electricity on board. The system will enable the vessel to act as a mobile charging station for battery driven cruise ships. Ulstein believes the vessel concept will help to make the transition to zero-emission cruise operations a reality.
The charging capacity of the Thor vessel has been scaled so it can meet the power requirements of four expedition cruise ships at the same time. Without the need to refuel, Ulstein hopes the Thor vessel can be the blueprint for future self-sufficient vessels.
To demonstrate the feasibility of the concept, Ulstein has created a second concept called the Ulstein Sif, a 100m-long, zero-emission expedition cruise ship. The Ice Class 1C vessel will have a 160-passenger capacity and will utilize next-generation battery technology. The Thor vessel can then be used by the Sif to recharge at sea.
“We have the goals, ambition and environmental imperative to switch to zero-emission operations, but, until now, we haven’t had the solution,” said Cathrine Kristiseter Marti, CEO, Ulstein. “We believe Thor might be the answer we’ve been looking for. Thor is essentially a floating, multi-purpose power station that will enable a new battery revolution.”
“Expedition cruise ships operate in increasingly remote, and environmentally fragile areas,” continued Marti. “At the same time, the industry faces growing pressure from diverse stakeholders to preserve nature as it is and ban the environmental impact of cruising. Thor enables replenishment of energy and supplies on site, while also boasting the technology to facilitate rescue operations, as well as conducting research tasks.”
Thorium has been identified as having the potential to be used as a clean alternative fuel for the maritime industry. The MSR works by dissolving Thorium – an abundant, naturally occurring metal with low radioactivity – in liquid salt. A chain reaction follows in which the salt is heated, producing steam which is then used to drive a turbine to create electricity. The sustainable solution has yet to be incorporated into a vessel design.
“MSRs have enormous potential for enabling clean shipping,” explained Jan Emblemsvåg, professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “There is so much uncertainty over future fuels, but here we have an abundant energy source that, with the right approach, can be safe, much more efficient, cheaper, with a smaller environmental footprint than any existing alternative. From my perspective, I see this as the most viable, and potentially the only credible, solution for a zero-emission fleet that can operate under commercial terms and cost levels. The Thor concept is exactly the kind of innovation we need for sustainable success at sea.”
Both vessels benefit from Ulstein’s X-bow design which helps to provide greater operational functionality and fuel efficiency.
“Here we have two concepts in one to showcase a cleaner, safer and more sustainable way ahead for cruise ship owners and operators, not to mention maritime in general,” said Øyvind Kamsvåg, chief designer, Ulstein. “Thor and Sif demonstrate what is possible when we approach challenges from a new direction.”